History of literacy
Literacy is the ability, confidence, and willingness to engage with language to acquire, construct, and communicate meaning in all aspects of daily living. The role of literacy encompasses the ability to communicate effectively and comprehend written or printed materials. Literacy also includes critical thinking skills and the ability to comprehend complex information in various contexts.
Literacy programs have proven to be instrumental throughout history in elevating the living conditions for all humans, including:
- The development of the printing press in the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg was a pivotal literacy inflection point. The printing press enabled the mass production of books, thereby making books accessible to all people instead of just the elite.
- The establishment of public libraries in the 19th century played a significant role in increasing literacy by providing low-cost access to books and other reading materials regardless of class.
- The introduction of compulsory education in the 19th and early 20th centuries ensured that more people had access to the education necessary to become literate.
- The advent of television and radio in the mid-20th century provided new methods to improve education and promote literacy to the masses.
- The introduction of computer technology and the internet in the late 20th century democratized access to the information necessary to learn new skills through online resources and interactive learning tools.
- Improved economic opportunities: Literacy is a critical factor in economic development. It helps people acquire the skills and knowledge needed to participate in the workforce and pursue better-paying jobs.
- Better health outcomes: Literacy is linked to better health outcomes, as literate people can better understand health information and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
- Increased civic participation: Literacy enables people to understand and participate in civic life, including voting, community engagement, and advocacy for their rights and interests.
- Reduced poverty: Literacy is critical in reducing poverty, as it helps people access better-paying jobs and improve their economic prospects.
- Increased social mobility: Literacy can be a critical factor in upward social mobility, as it provides people with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue education, job training, and other opportunities for personal and professional advancement.
We need to take the next step in literacy, explicitly focusing on AI and data literacy to support the ability and confidence to seek out, read, understand, and intelligently discuss and debate how AI and big data impact our lives and society.